Sunshine through the rain

Trip Start Aug 25, 2012
Trip End Feb 25, 2013

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , South Chungcheong,
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I woke this morning with a start. There was a loud beeping coming from... somewhere and it sounded like a truck was backing through my apartment. It wasn't my alarm, it was the alarm of a neighbor that was absurdly loud. I rolled over and looked at the clock, 5 o'clock on the dot. I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep but my anxiety was getting the better of me. What if my co-teachers hate me? What if I flounder in front of the students? What if my power point presentations suck? Fine. I will just get up. Soon after I woke up my parents logged online and we were able to Skype. Talking to family and friends always makes me feel better, so this was welcome. I killed time, drowsily making my way through my morning routine until it was time for school.
On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday I teach for Shin Pyeong middle school. On Wednesday I teach for Hap Doek all girls middle school. I live in Shin Pyeong so it is easy for me to get to my main school (but far from anything or anyone that I would like to actually be near) and I will have to take two different buses to get from my apartment to Hap Doek. Today, in order to make my life just a tiny bit easier Gin (the guy who first picked me up from orientation) picked me up from my apartment to bring me to school. I was terribly anxious, my stomach tied in knots. My teaching has been difficult. I am new to speaking in front of so many students, especially ones who are looking bored and goofing off. I have a number of Korean teachers who I am working with and I am scared that they will think I am a bad teacher or a stupid American.
I shakily got out of Gin's car and was almost reluctant to leave him as I wandered inside. My knees felt shaky, I had had a hard time eating breakfast this morning... and dinner last night. I found the teachers' room and was greeted with smiles all around. One of my Korean teachers escorted me to my classroom and I set up my power point. As class began I looked down at 20 eager, smiling faces and the knot in my stomach loosened. I started my "Getting to know you" slide show and after every slide the Korean teacher would chime in, explaining some of the material in Korean. It felt good to work as a team and the girls were interested and interactive. They were well behaved, quiet, and eager to please.
After my slide show we did an activity that I call "Draw your name" where I write my name on the board. B E C K I. And then I ask them for a word that begins with the letter B, and I draw a picture of that word. Then a letter E, and I draw a picture of that word. And so on. The girls loved the game and I fed off of their enthusiasm. Then they get to draw their names and I walk around helping them think of words. At the end of class, the girls get to share their pictures and their names. Perfect! This is what all of the other teachers are talking about when they say that they love their jobs.
I did this three more times and it went swimmingly. I couldn't believe it. After my classes one of the teachers said that she would take me to the English Teacher Coordinator's office to open my bank account and get a medical check. But first, we would eat lunch together. We went to the cafeteria and they were serving bibimbap which is everyone's favorite dish. It is a bowl of meat and vegetables that you mix together with rice and chili paste and it's pretty tasty. I also impressed every one with my mad chopstick skills.
It would be a little while before I would be taken to the coordinators office so I was told I could hang out at my desk in the teachers' room and surf the internet. This was awesome because Carlo had just gotten home and we were able to chat online about our days. He was glad that my day was going so much better and his support made my heart soar. As I was typing away I noticed an American man had walked into the room with a Korean teacher. What?! A American? What is he doing here. I sat patiently, trying to catch his eye as he held his conversation with the Korean teacher. As he turned to leave he noticed me and perked up immediately. We came towards each other like excited puppies meeting for the first time. We spoke loudly and quickly in English. Who are you? What are you doing here? Where are you from? His name is Mike, he is from Chicago (but went to school in Beloit) and he works at the Hap Doek girls high school, except he teaches classes at the middle school on Wednesday afternoons. I was thrilled. Here was someone who could show me around a bit. Someone who could teach me how to take the bus. Maybe we could talk about lesson plans. He seemed equally eager to make friends, even though he isn't new to Korea. We only had a few minutes to talk before he had to go teach class, but meeting someone who could be a new friend (after spending so much time sitting alone in my apartment) made me almost giddy.
After that I was taken to the Coordinator's office and we went to pick up another teacher named Logan so we could open bank accounts. This was pretty uneventful... but took forEVER to get done. Seriously, it just went on and on. Maybe because we were foreigners, or maybe that's just how long it takes.
After that we went down to the clinic to get our medical check ups that are stipulated in our teaching contract. I am always fascinated by other cultures and how they deal with medicine. The process was brief (faster than opening a bank account). We were measured and weighed, had our hearing and sight tested, chest x-rayed. When my blood was drawn I noticed that the tech wasn't wearing gloves, which is very uncommon in America. He had a hard time poking into my right vein so he switched to the left (and thankfully swapped to a new needle). He landed his mark on the left side and when he slid the needle out I was bleeding. He covered the wound with an alcohol pad (um ow). As I sat there, Logan (the other American teacher) came up and set a Dixie cup of Gatorade down on the table, grinned at me nervously, and wandered off. Well that was nice of him to bring me something after getting my blood drawn. The tech looked down at the cup and moved it away from me, which was when I realized that it wasn't juice, it was a urine sample. In an open, paper cup. Oh man. After my blood was drawn I was given my own paper cup and pointed to a bathroom. Unfortunately they didn't have a Western toilet, they only had the squatty potty type. I got to use these in India, so that's not that big of a deal, but I've never had to use one where I had to pee in a cup (and not pee on myself or the floor). I am proud to say that I didn't embarrass myself (except for the fact that I am talking about bathroom business on my blog).

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Carlo on

Fantastic! You *so* deserve to have a good teaching experience -- hopefully this mid-week bit of joy will help balance out the Gangnam Style attitude the boys at the other school exhibit. ;)

Also, bonus points for finding friends in unexpected places! Hopefully Mike can help you decipher the bus schedule. :D

Mom on

Hearing about the great day you had on Wednesday made me feel so happy for you. I know how hard you work on preparing for your classes and it's wonderful that the middle school girls enjoyed these activities. Keep it up! My favority phrase in this blog entry: Mad chopsticks skills :)

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